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Retrospective planning application and coat of paint for Sandy Road’s ‘Berlin Wall’

IT has become known locally as the ‘Berlin Wall’. A rusty steel structure, which has been erected at the rear of the new Taylor Wimpey – Stradey Park Development. The issue facing local residents has been well documented and now, the latest is that ASBRI Planning Ltd have been requested by Taylor Wimpey South Wales (TWSW) to submit a retrospective application S/39997 for the retention of sheet piled retaining wall structure on land at Parc y Strade.

In the application it states ‘On the 28th August 2019, the Local Planning Authority (LPA) were of the opinion that the principle of a retaining structure is approved by the current reserved matters permission, the precise method of construction and the retaining structure “as built” differed from that as approved under the current permission.’

Local campaigner Ray Jones claims he had pointed out that the wall was nothing like the wall on drawings residents received as part of the planning process.

Monitoring the ‘Berlin Wall’ from the East: Long time campaigner Ray Jones

The applicant concedes as much in their comments, ‘the actual method and type of construction of the current retaining structure differs from that as shown on the approved drawing. constraints, existing sewer infrastructure and the need to provide a robust retaining structure the initial masonry wall option was discounted as technically unfeasible despite it being the “approved” option.’

The applicant goes on to state: ‘In order to seek to regularise the current planning situation, it is TWSW’s intention to formally submit a retrospective application to regularise the current situation which seeks to deal with the key matters you have indicated as follows;

• Technical justification as to why the sheet piled structure option was progressed in favour of all other options;

• Structural assessment of the sheet piled solution in terms of its integrity and life span to justify it is fit for purpose;

• Drainage assessment of the scheme in so far as we need to acknowledge previous surface water flooding issue pre completion of wall and the fact that it is now connected into a positive drainage system.

The metal wall, which towers above the average hedge line is also topped with a timber fence. The base of the site is almost level with the roofs of garages on Sandy Road.

Division of communities: The ‘Berlin Wall’ divides East and West communities of Sandy Rd and Stradey Park

Residents have complained of flooding to their properties during and after construction of the wall. Many said the wall was completely unacceptable, unsightly and not something one would consider environmentally friendly or aesthetically sensitive to the area.

The Stradey estate is enclosed by a stone wall, which has been in place for well over a century. The applicant claims that Taylor Wimpey discounted a masonry wall stating ‘In terms of a traditional masonry solution, concerns were raised that there was a probability of residual/differential settlement post construction, meaning that the masonry face could potentially crack and fail. Any warranties would be limited to the 10 year period of defects allowed by the NHBC following which individual house owners would be liable.’

The applicant states that an ‘optioneering’ exercise was carried out and that pile driving a metal wall was seen as an option which would ‘address the long-term settlement issues provide sufficient space for the required enclosures as well as the additional benefit in that it forms a ready-made ‘temporary works’ solution should Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water (DCWW) ever need to excavate in the lane to replace the existing combined sewer.’

The application to retain the wall also includes details on how they plan to paint the wall. An image on the planning application shows a choice of white or navy blue paint. Residents on one side of the wall won’t have to worry about being confronted with the solid block of blue or white staring them in the face as they will not be able to see it unless the venture onto the other side.

Residents had previously raised environmental concerns regarding possible pollution of the local water course, which they claim runs into some of the local ponds and lakes.

Looking for answers: Residents enlist the help of their MP Nia Griffith

The applicant acknowledges that the wall has penetrated the aquifer and that water is running under and around the wall.

(An aquifer is an underground source of water, which finds its way into ponds, lakes and even reservoirs. The water is believed to be very clear and clean).

Ray Jones commented: “Are we to believe that the wall below ground and submerged in water is not corroding at a faster level than that above ground, given that it has not been painted.”

The campaigner was also concerned that any contamination may be running in to a clean water source, which could impact on wildlife and any subsequent water supplies the contamination might find its way into via the water table.

In the application it states: ‘Integral Geotechnique have provided a technical justification note which accompanies this planning application submission which deals with matters relating to drainage. Firstly, in terms of impact on ground water it is confirmed that the sheet pile wall only partially penetrates the aquifer and hence the groundwater flow across the wider area will only be partially impeded. This will result in the flow under and around the wall ensuring water levels do not rise significantly behind the wall and will be within the allowances in the design for water pressure effects on the sheet pile wall.’

The application concedes that the wall differs from that originally applied for. It concedes there have been difficulties and that the wall has been contentious. The applicant also acknowledges that the wall has begun to corrode and that it has a 50 year lifespan ‘The current solution has an overall design life of 50+ years.’ whereas a wall would have only a ten year lifespan. They don’t make walls like they used to then.

Ray Jones who lives on Sandy Road and has objected profusely to the wall and has recorded the flooding post wall construction as well as ruptured sewer pipes during construction. Ray also maintains that the wall has encroached on land, which did not belong to Taylor Wimpey.

We contacted Carmarthenshire County Council for a comment. We wrote:

We understand Asbri Planning have made an application for retrospective planning for the retaining wall at Stradey/Sandy Road application number S/39997. In the application it mentions that the plans residents would have seen of the original wall were nothing like the metal wall residents now have. The application concedes this and it concedes difficulties regarding water and lifespan of the wall. It also concedes that the wall is now corroding and requires painting. 

Could we ask,

  • Why were they allowed to build this metal wall without planning permission?

  • Why were they allowed to break mains drainage during construction?

  • Does the council have any major concerns for the environmental impact given that the applicant concedes that the metal wall has penetrated the aquifer, which is a clean source of water and which feeds into fresh water supplies?

  • Does the council believe that the wall, which is to be painted blue or white as a solid block is in keeping with their vision for environmentally friendly construction and quality of life for those whose homes look onto the wall?

  • Does the council accept the applicant’s explanation that a masonry built wall only has a shelf life of 10 years whereas a metal wall has a shelf life of 50 years? 

We are awaiting a response.


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